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Datasheet

Jatropha curcas (jatropha)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 11 October 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Pest
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Jatropha curcas
  • Preferred Common Name
  • jatropha
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • After introduction into Asian countries, J. curcas has spread very rapidly, and due to its ethnobotanical uses, promotion as an ornamental and hedge plant encouraged its further spread. For farmers, plantation...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); habit.
TitleHabit
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); habit.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); habit.
HabitJatropha curcas (jatropha); habit.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); foliage.
TitleLeaves
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); foliage.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); foliage.
LeavesJatropha curcas (jatropha); foliage.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); leaf.
TitleLeaf
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); leaf.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); leaf.
LeafJatropha curcas (jatropha); leaf.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); leaves and flowers.
TitleLeaves and flowers
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); leaves and flowers.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); leaves and flowers.
Leaves and flowersJatropha curcas (jatropha); leaves and flowers.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); close-up of flowers.
TitleFlowers
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); close-up of flowers.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); close-up of flowers.
FlowersJatropha curcas (jatropha); close-up of flowers.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green fruits.
TitleFruits
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green fruits.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green fruits.
FruitsJatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green fruits.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green and maturing yellow fruits.
TitleMaturing fruits
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green and maturing yellow fruits.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green and maturing yellow fruits.
Maturing fruitsJatropha curcas (jatropha); immature green and maturing yellow fruits.©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); mature and old fruits.
TitleFruits
CaptionJatropha curcas (jatropha); mature and old fruits.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Jatropha curcas (jatropha); mature and old fruits.
FruitsJatropha curcas (jatropha); mature and old fruits.©Sheldon Navie

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Jatropha curcas L.

Preferred Common Name

  • jatropha

Other Scientific Names

  • Castiglionia lobata Ruiz & Pav.
  • Curcas adansonii Endl
  • Curcas curcas (L.) Britt.
  • Curcas drastica Mart.
  • Curcas indica A.Rich
  • Curcas lobata Splitg. ex Lanj.
  • Curcas purgans Medik.
  • Jatropha acerifolia Salisb.
  • Jatropha afrocurcas Pax
  • Jatropha curcas var. rufa McVaugh
  • Jatropha edulis Sessé
  • Jatropha yucatanensis Briq.
  • Manihot curcas (L.) Crantz
  • Ricinus americanus Mill.
  • Ricinus jarak Thunb.

International Common Names

  • English: Barbados nut; Barbados nut tree; bubble bush; Mexican pine; physic nut; physic nut tree; poison nut; purging nut; purging nut tree
  • Spanish: arbol de los pinones de Indias; arbol santo; frailejon; pinon; pinon blanco; pinoncillo; tartago; tempate
  • French: grand ignon d'Inde; grand medicinier; gros ricin; haricot du perou; manioc batard; medicinier; noix de medicine; oignon d'Inde; pignon des Barbades; pignon d'Inde; pion d'Inde; pourghere; pulguere; purghere; ricin d'Amerique
  • Arabic: dandebarri; dandenahri; habb el meluk
  • Chinese: ma fong chou
  • Portuguese: grao malucco; grao muluco; pinahao; pinhao de purga; pulza; purgheira; purgueira; ricino maior

Local Common Names

  • : ba dau me; ba dau nam; cc dau; dau me; dong thu; kuang; lohong; vao; vong dau ngo
  • Benin: aru-ebo
  • Brazil: figo do inferno Mandubiguasu; munduyguasu; pihao de purga; pinhao do paaguay; pinhao manso; pinhao paraguay; pinheiro de purga; pinheiro do inferno
  • Cambodia: lohong khvangsu
  • Cameroon: botije; botuje; botuje-ubo; lobotuje; olobontuje; shenrijum; ubo
  • Cape Verde: pulguiera
  • Caribbean: feved'enfer; herbe du bon dieu; herbe du diable mancenillier benit; medicinier benit; medicinier des Barbades; noix americaine; pignon de Barbarie; pignon d'Inde
  • Cook Islands: fiki; pakarani; piki; tuitui pakarangi; tuke
  • Cuba: piñón criollo; piñón lechero; piñón vómico
  • Egypt: habbel-meluk
  • Ethiopia: ehanduejot; erundi; jangli-yarandi
  • Fiji: banidakai; fiki; manggele; maqele; mbanindakai; ndrala; uto ni vavalangi; wiriwiri; wiriwiri ni vavalangi
  • French Guiana: barane; medeicinier
  • Gabon: ogombo
  • Germany: Purgiernussbaum; Purgirnuss; Schwarzelrechnuss
  • Guam: tubatuba
  • Haiti: feuilles medecin; feuilles médicinier; grand médecinier; médecinier à grandes feuilles; médecinier béni; médecinier cathartique; médicinier à grandes feuilles
  • India: adalai; akhuparnika; bagberenda; bagbherenda; baghbarinda; baghrandi; baigab; bhernda; bonbheranda; chitra; dravanti; erandagachh; irundi; jaiphal; jangliarandi; jepal; kadalmanakku; kaitta; kananeranda; kattamanakku; kattavanakku; kattukkottai; kuribaravuni; kurikarlu; maraharalu; mogalieranda; mushikaparni; naligadi; nikkurottam; nyagrodhi; paharierand; parvateranda; pharierand; pratyakshreni; ranayerandi; randa; ratanjot; safedarand; safedhind; safedind; shanbari; sutasheni; tiravade; vellaiyamanankku; vrisha; yerand
  • Indonesia/Java: dijark
  • Iran: dandebarri dandenahri
  • Italy: fava purgatrice; giatrofa catarcita; ricino maggiore
  • Lesser Antilles: médicinier barrière
  • Mali: baga-ni; iridingue
  • Mauritius: pignon d'Inde
  • Mexico: avellanes purgantes; pinon Mexicano; sangregaod
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: sáfeen kinas
  • Mozambique: sassi
  • Myanmar: kesugi; thinbankyekku; thinbaukyeksu; thinbawkyetsu
  • Nepal: kadam
  • Netherlands: purgeernoot
  • Philippines: bolongcauit; casta; cator; kator; taatava; tuba
  • Puerto Rico: tartago
  • Saint Lucia: medsinnyè beni
  • Samoa: lau pata; puavai
  • Saudi Arabia: pignon d'Inde
  • Senegal: tuba
  • Sierra Leone: bagauro
  • Sri Lanka: kaddamanakku
  • Tonga: fiki
  • USA/Hawaii: kuikui Pake; kuku‘ihi

EPPO code

  • IATCU (Jatropha curcas)

Summary of Invasiveness

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After introduction into Asian countries, J. curcas has spread very rapidly, and due to its ethnobotanical uses, promotion as an ornamental and hedge plant encouraged its further spread. For farmers, plantation owners and foresters, this promotion is becoming a problem. After recent research on its use as a potential biofuel crop, the governments of many Asian countries, including India, are promoting its commercial cultivation. This may cause further damage to ecosystems and natural biodiversity. A number of risk assessments for invasiveness have given J. curcas a high risk of becoming invasive (Gordon et al., 2011; Negussie et al., 2013a), although field studies have not always found actual evidence of spread or environmental impact (Negussie et al., 2015).

 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Euphorbiales
  •                         Family: Euphorbiaceae
  •                             Genus: Jatropha
  •                                 Species: Jatropha curcas

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The name Jatropha curcas was first used by Linnaeus, and although there are a number of synonyms this name is still valid today. J. curcas is in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, which is a pantropical family including 228 genera and over 6500 species of trees and shrubs (The Plant List, 2013). The genus Jatropha belongs to the tribe Jatropheae of the subfamily Crotonoideae. The genus comprises about 180 species, most of them in warm temperate and subtropical regions and the seasonally dry tropics.

Dehgan and Webster (1979) revised the subdivision made by Pax (1910) and now distinguish two subgenera (Curcas and Jatropha) of the genus Jatropha, with 10 sections and 10 subsections to accommodate the Old and New World species. They postulated the physic nut (Jatropha curcas L. [sect. Curcas (Adans.) Griseb., subg. Curcas (Adans.) Pax]) to be the most primitive form of the Jatropha genus. Species in other sections evolved from the physic nut or another ancestral form, with changes in growth habit and flower structures. Hierarchical cluster analysis of 77 New World Jatropha species showed for the most part concordance with Dehgan and Webster's (1979) infrageneric classification (Dehgan and Schutzman, 1994). Further cladistic analysis supported the Dehgan and Webster (1979) evolutionary model of the genus Jatropha.

Other Jatropha species in the section Curcas include: J. pseudo-curcas, J. afrocurcas, J. macrophylla, J. villosa (syn.: J. wightiana), J. hintonii, J. bartlettii, J. mcvaughii and J. yucatanensis. McVaugh (1945) considered J. yucatanensis to be a synonym of J. curcas. One species, J. villosa, is of Indian origin (Ahmedullah and Nayar, 1987). Two species, J. afrocurcas and J. macrophylla, are of East African origin, whereas all the other species in this section are native to the Americas.

Description

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J. curcas is a shrub or treelet, 2-5 m tall, with watery latex; bark smooth; branches glaucous-gray, glabrous, sparsely lenticellate, pith larger. Stipules small; petioles 6-18 cm; leaf blade rotund to ovate, 7-18 × 6-16 cm, papery, nitid green and glabrous adaxially, gray-green and along nerves puberulent to glabrous abaxially, base cordate, apex acute; palmate veins 5-7. Inflorescences axillary, 6-10 cm; bracts lanceolate, 4-8 mm. Male flowers: sepals 5, approximately 4 mm, connate at base; petals oblong, green-yellow, approximately 6 mm, connate to middle, hairy inside; disk glands 5, nearly terete; stamens 10; outer 5 filaments free, inner filaments connate in lower part. Female flowers: pedicels elongate; sepals free, approximately 6 mm; petals and disk glands as in male; ovary 3-locular, glabrous; styles bifid at apex. Capsules ellipsoidal or globose, 2.5-3 cm, yellow. Seeds ellipsoidal, 1.5-2 cm, black (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015).

 

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Woody

Distribution

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J. curcas is thought to be native to tropical America but its exact origin is still uncertain. Martin and Mayeux (1984) identified Ceara, Brazil, as a centre of origin, but Dehgan and Webster (1979) cite Wilbur (1954) that “it was without doubt part of the flora of Mexico and probably of northern Central America before the arrival of Cortez, and it most likely originated there ... the subsection, hence, appears to be one which originally was nearly or completely restricted to Mexico.” According to Aponte (1978), J. curcas is native to Central America as well as to Mexico, where it occurs naturally in the forests of coastal regions. USDA-ARS (2015) notes a native range of Mexico, Central America and northern South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay) excluding the Caribbean. Kairo et al. (2003) and Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong (2012) also reported J. curcas as introduced in the Caribbean.

 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BhutanPresentIntroducedGrierson and Long, 1987
CambodiaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
ChinaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-FujianPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-GuizhouPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-HainanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-SichuanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
-YunnanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroduced Not invasive Swarbrick, 1997; PIER, 2008
IndiaWidespreadIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Arunachal PradeshPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-AssamPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-BiharPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-ChandigarhPresentIntroduced Invasive Caius, 1986
-ChhattisgarhWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Caius, 1986
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresentIntroduced Invasive Caius, 1986
-DamanPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-DelhiPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-DiuPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-GoaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-GujaratPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-HaryanaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Indian PunjabPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-KeralaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-LakshadweepPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-ManipurPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-MeghalayaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-MizoramPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-NagalandPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-OdishaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-RajasthanPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-SikkimPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-TripuraPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
-West BengalPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
IndonesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oudhia and Tripathi, 2002
-JavaPresentIntroducedOudhia and Tripathi, 2002
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
MyanmarPresentIntroducedOudhia and Tripathi, 2002
NepalPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedbefore 1870sMerrill, 1903
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009Cultivated and naturalized
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
TaiwanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2007Cultivated and naturalized
ThailandPresentIntroducedOudhia and Tripathi, 2002
VietnamPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
YemenPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated and naturalized

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
BeninPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
Burkina FasoPresentIntroduced Not invasive Spaan et al., 2004
BurundiPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
CameroonPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedSerra, 1950; Caius, 1986
Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
ChadPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
ComorosPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
EgyptPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
GabonPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
GambiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
GhanaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
GuineaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
KenyaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
LiberiaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
MadagascarPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
MalawiPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
MaliPresentIntroduced Not invasive Spaan et al., 2004
MauritiusPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
MayottePresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015
MozambiquePresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
NigerPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
NigeriaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986; PROTA, 2015
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Caius, 1986
SenegalPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
SeychellesPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
SomaliaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015
South AfricaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
SudanPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
TogoPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015Cultivated
UgandaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
ZambiaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2015Cultivated
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Not invasive Chivandi et al., 2005

North America

MexicoPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
USA
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2015Naturalized
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008; USDA-NRCS, 2008

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
BahamasPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
BarbadosPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
BelizePresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015Tortola, Virgin Gorda
CaribbeanPresent
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2015
Costa RicaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
CubaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
DominicaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
El SalvadorPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
GrenadaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
GuatemalaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
HaitiPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
HondurasPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
MontserratPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
NicaraguaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
PanamaPresentNative Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008; USDA-NRCS, 2008; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
Saint LuciaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Krauss, 2012
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; USDA-NRCS, 2008; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015St Croix, St John

South America

ArgentinaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
BoliviaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
BrazilPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
-CearaPresentNative Not invasive Martin and Mayeux, 1984
-TocantinsPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2015
ChilePresentGovaerts, 2015Origin uncertain
ColombiaPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008Origin uncertain
EcuadorPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008; PIER, 2008
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
French GuianaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
GuyanaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated and naturalized
ParaguayPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
PeruPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2008
SurinamePresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated and naturalized
UruguayPresentGovaerts, 2015Origin uncertain
VenezuelaPresent Not invasive Funk et al., 2007; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2008

Europe

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedCaius, 1986
AustraliaPresent Invasive Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2008
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Crothers, 1998; PIER, 2008; Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2008
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008; Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2008
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2008
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2008
Cook IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
GuamPresentIntroduced Invasive Stone, 1970; Caius, 1986; PIER, 2008
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
NiuePresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
PalauPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedHeller, 1996
SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Caius, 1986; Meyer, 2000; PIER, 2008
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008
TuvaluPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2008
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2015

History of Introduction and Spread

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It was widely distributed throughout the tropics as an ornamental and medicinal plant, and was probably distributed by Portuguese seafarers via Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau to other countries in Africa and Asia. Freitas (1906), notes that it was already known in Cape Verde several years prior to 1810. Chelmicki and Varnhagen (1841) mention that exports of J. curcas nuts had already begun in 1836, and many decrees were published in the ‘Boletim Oficial de Cabo Verde’ from 1843 onwards to promote its planting (Freitas, 1906; Serra, 1950). Burkill (1966) assumes that the Portuguese brought it to Asia, but suggests that it may not have reached Malacca, Indonesia until the Dutch were in possession, for the Malays call it by a name meaning ‘Dutch castor oil’. The Javanese, among other names, call it Chinese castor oil. It is regarded in most countries, in Africa as well as in the East, as the 'castor oil plant', which shows that it was brought in and planted for the oil and it is widely known as the 'hedge castor oil plant', showing where it was mostly planted. In the West Indies, J. curcas appears in herbarium collection made in 1865 in Trinidad and Tobago, 1881 in Dominica, 1885 in Puerto Rico and 1893 in Guadeloupe (US National Herbarium).

Risk of Introduction

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J. curcas has been deliberately introduced into many countries for ornamental or medicinal purposes, or for exploitation of the oil as a fuel for lighting. There is a possibility of further introduction and cultivation as a fuel crop. It is listed as a weed in a number of countries, and is a class A noxious weed (to be eradicated) in the Northern Territory, Australia (Crothers, 1998) and a declared noxious species in Western Australia (PIER, 2008). It also failed a weed risk assessment for the Pacific (PIER, 2008).

Habitat

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J. curcas grows as a weed in tropical and sub-tropical environments and can be found in disturbed sites, pastures, open woodlands, waste areas, abandoned gardens, and along roadsides. 

Many Jatropha species in their native Americas occur in seasonally dry areas such as grassland-savanna (cerrado), thorn forest scrub and caatingas, and are completely lacking from the moist Amazon humid forest region (Dehgan and Schutzman, 1994). J. curcas is a common hedge plant in Guatemala and Florida, USA, where it is also found in roadsides or disturbed sites. It is found especially in the stony dry stream courses and on rocky slopes in Cape Verde, and is a common wasteland and upland weed in parts of India. In the Pacific it is reported as a potential invader of lowland forest on Wallis and Futuna Islands, naturalized along roadsides, on open slopes, and sometimes in forests in Fiji, about plantations, along roads, and other places where it is used as a living fence in Tonga, and in secondary scrubland in New Caledonia (PIER, 2008). In La Réunion, it is naturalized in semi-dry vegetation along paths and riverbanks, and in Australia is found in disturbed areas around old settlements (PIER, 2008).

 

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Deserts Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
semi-natural/Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
semi-natural/Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page Harmful allelopathic effects of J. curcas on germination and seedling vigour of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), rice, chickpeas and lentils have been reported (Oudhia, 2000). In Chhattisgarh, India, it is a common wasteland and upland weed. Its infestation in forests is becoming a threat to many native species (Oudhia and Tripathi, 2002).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

J. curcas is a diploid species with 2n = 22 chromosomes (Soontornchainaksaeng and Jenjittikul, 2003). Large living germplasm collections are known to have been established in several countries, and trials have been undertaken to select provenances with a higher fruit and oil yield. A number of studies have identified significant differences in oil yield from different provinces in Indian states. Broad intra- and inter-populational variation was also assessed using molecular markers (Basha and Sujatha, 2007) and peroxidase enzyme activity (Kumar et al., 2005).

Reproductive Biology

J. curcas is monoecious and protandrous, the ratio of male to female flowers being 29:1. Both flower sexes open synchronously, and the sexual system facilitates geitonogamy and xenogamy. Flower visitors include bees and flies which affect geitonogamy and xenogamy, and ants and thrips which affect only geitonogamy. Fruiting behaviour indicates that the plant might selectively eliminate the growing offspring, especially the geitonogamous fruit, to allocate the resources available mostly for xenogamous fruit, and the ability to self-pollinate through geitonogamy is considered to be adaptive for J. curcas colonization (Raju and Ezradanam, 2002).

During field trials, Heller (1992) observed a number of different insects that visited flowers and could pollinate the plant, noting that in Senegal, staminate flowers open later than pistillate flowers in the same inflorescence which to a certain extent promotes cross-pollination. After pollination, a trilocular ellipsoidal fruit is formed, the exocarp remaining fleshy until the seeds are mature. Fruit development needs 90 days from flowering to seed maturation. It may regrow from parts of any broken, tuberous roots. It can also be reproduced artificially via cuttings and tissue culture.

Physiology and Phenology

Sukarin et al. (1987) observed two flowering peaks in Thailand, in November and May, whereas in permanently humid equatorial regions flowering occurs throughout the year. The fruit releases three large black seeds (nuts), each about 2 cm long and 1 cm in diameter. In good moisture conditions, germination occurs in 10 days (Heller, 1996). When the seed shell splits, the radicle emerges and four small peripheral roots are formed. Soon after development of the first true leaves, the cotyledons wither and fall off. Further growth is sympodial. In Thailand, a stem length of 1 m was reached after 5 months growth when sown in May (Sukarin et al., 1987). Vegetative growth occurs mainly in the rainy season, with little increment in the dry season, and like many other Jatropha species, J. curcas is a succulent that sheds its leaves during the dry season.

Environmental Requirements

It is best adapted to arid and semi-arid conditions. Current distribution confirms that introduction has been most successful in similar dry regions of the tropics with an average annual rainfall of between 300 and 1000 mm, though will tolerate higher rainfall areas up to 2000 mm with extended dry seasons, and it has reported survived years without any rainfall in Cape Verde (Münch, 1986). The areas where it has been collected in the centre of origin show average annual temperatures well above 20°C and up to 28°C, although mean temperatures of collection sites range from 11°C to 28°C. It was, however, noted to withstand occasional light frost in the Chã das Caldeiras, Fogo, Cape Verde islands at approximately 1700 m altitude (Kiefer, 1986) where grapevines and apples can also be found.

It grows on well-drained soils with good aeration and is well-adapted to marginal soils with low nutrient content, including saline or sodic and alkaline soils. It is also very drought tolerant and can withstand slight frost (Orwa et al., 2009).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
23 -23 0 0

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -1 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 11 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 0 0
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 0 0

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration48number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall3002000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Summer
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow
  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cochliobolus spicifer Pathogen Leaves
Pestalotiopsis paraguariensis Pathogen Leaves
Pestalotiopsis versicolor Pathogen Leaves
Pseudocercospora jatrophae-curcas Pathogen Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

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A number of pests and diseases have been reported (see Heller, 1996), although in most countries they do not severely affect the plant. Millipedes (Julus sp.) have been reported as causing total loss of seedlings (Heller, 1992). Fusariummoniliforme [Gibberella fujikuroi] has been reported as causing root rot of J. curcas in India (Sharma et al., 2001). Studies on Heteroptera in J. curcas stands in Nicaragua found Pachycoris klugii and Leptoglossus zonatus to be the most common (Grimm and Fuhrer, 1998). The life-cycle of P. klugii was studied by Grimm and Somarriba (1998), who described this species as a key pest of J. curcas in Nicaragua. Grimm and Somarriba (1999) reared L. zonatus on a diet consisting of unripe J. curcas fruit only and concluded that J. curcas was a highly suitable food plant which can maintain populations of this insect pest throughout the year.

In India, J. curcas is devastated by the scutellarid Scutellera nobilis [S. perplexa], which is an emerging problem that causes flower fall, fruit abortion and seed malformation. Another scutellarid, Agonosoma trilineatum is also a serious problem from seed-feeding, and red pumpkin beetles (Aulacophora foveicollis) are also found to infest the leaves (Sharma, 2006). A leaf miner was also found infesting J. curcas in India (Mohommad et al., 2007), but the key pest attacking J. curcas in southern India identified by Regupathy and Ayyasamy (2006) was the leaf webber cum fruit borer, Pempelia morosalis (Saalm Uller). Pandey et al. (2006) also noted Pestalotiopsis stem canker attacking J. curcas in northern India. Many pests were recorded by Shanker and Dhyani (2006), including Pachycoris klugii, Agonosoma trilineatum, Scutellera nobilis [Scutellera perplexa], Pempelia morosalis, Stomphastis thraustica [Stomphastis plectica], Achaea janata and Oxycetonia versicolor, while Stegodyphus sp., Pseudotelenomus pachycoris [Telenomus pachycoris], Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium anisopliae and Leptoglossus zonatus are some of their biological control agents.

The seed-borne fungi attacking J. curcas seed in India were recorded by Anitha et al. (2005), including Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus spp. (Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus fumigatus), Cladosporium sp., Chaetomium sp., Colletotrichum acutatum, Colletotrichum graminicola, Cercospora sp., Drechslera rostrata [Setosphaeria rostrata], Fusarium semitectum [F. pallidoroseum], F. solani, F. verticillioides [Gibberella moniliformis], Lasiodiplodia theobromae (the most prevalent), Periconia sp., Pestalotia sp. and Phoma sp.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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J. curcas has been deliberately introduced into many areas as a crop plant and this has been the principle means of long-distance dispersal. Locally, vehicles and machinery aid the spread of Jatropha through the movement of capsules and seed, vegetative parts of the plant, and soil containing seeds. Livestock also assist in the spread through the movement of seed and aid in establishment by the selective grazing of other more palatable but competitive species (Pitt, 1999). Naturally, capsules split open when ripe to eject seeds some distance, though gravity may be more important on sloped sites. Seeds are also dispersed by water and some spread occurs from the tuberous roots which sucker. In Burkina Faso, Negussie et al. (2015) have observed dispersal by small mammals and arthropods, particularly rodents and ants, and state that up to 98% secondary dispersal by animals was recorded at some sites. In Zambia, primary seed dispersal of J. curcas was limited: rodents and shrews dispersed and predated seeds and fruits, but none of the seeds repositioned in their burrows could establish (Negussie et al., 2013a).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop production Yes Pitt, 1999
Disturbance Yes Pitt, 1999
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Pitt, 1999
Flooding and other natural disasters Yes Pitt, 1999
Forestry Yes Pitt, 1999
Habitat restoration and improvement Yes Pitt, 1999
Hedges and windbreaks Yes Yes Pitt, 1999
Industrial purposes Yes Pitt, 1999
Internet sales Yes Pitt, 1999

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Livestock Yes Pitt, 1999
Machinery and equipment Yes Pitt, 1999
Mail Yes Pitt, 1999
Soil, sand and gravel Yes Pitt, 1999
Water Yes Pitt, 1999

Plant Trade

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Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bark
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Leaves
Roots
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain)
Wood

Economic Impact

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J. curcas has received most attention recently for its perceived potential as a future ‘miracle’ crop, as a source of biofuels, though in reality, there are few accurate and detailed reports that quantify the actual economic benefits that can be accrued (e.g. Goswami, 2006 and other chapters in the same book). Wani et al. (2006) observed that as increasing energy demand and spiraling oil prices are causing financial strain and environmental degradation, the use of non-edible oil as biodiesel provides a win-win proposition for densely populated Asian countries. However, there are negative impacts of possible invasion from biofuel crops which are being increasingly recognised, e.g. by Raghu et al. (2006) and Low and Booth (2007), and further comparison of positive and negative impacts are required for J. curcas as well as many other biofuel crops.

Environmental Impact

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The rapid spread of J. curcas in natural forests is a problem in many areas through damaging the natural flora. It competes with native species and has the potential to form dense thickets or colonies. Allelopathic studies conducted to evaluate the effects of different parts of J. curcas on germination and seedling vigour of different medicinal herbs revealed that J. curcas can damage the biodiversity of Chhattisgarh, India. Its increasing infestation in pasture lands, forests, and National Parks is becoming a potential threat to existing biodiversity. Vitexin and isovitexin, stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol from leaves have been identified as allelochemicals that are considered to be responsible for the harmful effects of J. curcas on neighbouring plants (Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1991), and harmful allelopathic effects on germination and seedling vigour of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), rice, chickpeas and lentils have been reported (Oudhia, 2000).

Further studies on the actually environmental impacts of J. curcas are needed, especially where known to be invasive already such as on Pacific islands, and attempts must be made to assess the merits and demerits of this species as an invasive weed or valuable biofuel crop. Negussie et al. (2015) suggested that in Burkina Faso, despite warnings about the invasive potential of J. curcas, there was no convincing evidence of natural spread or significant environmental impact. Negussie et al. (2013b) reported that their risk assessments which classified J. curcas as a species with high invasiveness risk, were in contradiction with recent experimental evidence. A risk assessment for Florida suggested that the species has a high probability of becoming invasive (Gordon et al., 2011), while Bridgemohan and Bridgemohan (2014) conducted a risk assessment for the Caribbean islands and say that J. curucas should not be considered as a bioenergy crop within the ecological limits of their study.

Social Impact

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J. curcas is poisonous to livestock and to people if seeds of J. curcas are consumed (Makkar and Becker, 1998), and overdoses cause severe diarrhoea and possible death. Presence of this weed in populated areas is considered to be dangerous, as deaths, particularly in children due to accidental intake have been common in India. The presence of this weed in bunds and wastelands creates an obstruction to the movement of livestock, and cases of poisoning among cattle are also common.

Risk and Impact Factors

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Impact mechanisms

  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth

Impact outcomes

  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Reduced native biodiversity

Invasiveness

  • Abundant in its native range
  • Fast growing
  • Has a broad native range
  • Has high genetic variability
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Long lived
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc

Likelihood of entry/control

  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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J. curcas has many uses. It is planted as hedges, shelterbelts and more rarely in plantations to prevent water-erosion, for soil conservation and to control sand-drift. Rapid growth, withstanding cutting or lopping, and reluctance of cattle or goats to browse the plant, make it useful in soil conservation, and it is also planted as a hedge around homes and fields (Budowski, 1987; Crothers, 1998). The spongy wood has no value as a fuel or for timber, and this along with it being unpalatable, makes it a useful border marker as it will not be cut or browsed.

Importantly, J. curcas yields an oil (30-40%), which is suitable as a fuel for diesel engines, and it has been suggested that it should be cultivated on marginal semi-arid land as a fuel crop. The oil is also useful for lighting, as a lubricant, and in soap and candle making, and was used as such since early times, it being said that “the lights of Lisbon used to be lit from pulgheira (J. curcas) oil”, and in Cape Verde even today, a rustic night light is sometimes made from lighting a row of dry seeds on a metal skewer. More recently it has been widely promoted as a biofuel crop throughout the tropics, and there are currently hundreds of projects. J. curcas is seen by many as a near-perfect biodiesel crop as it grows and ameliorates very poor soils and is drought and pest resilient. The concept of substituting bio-diesel produced from plantations on eroded soils for conventional diesel fuel has for example gained widespread attention in India (Katwal and Soni, 2003; Francis et al., 2005; Sieg, 2007), Indonesia (Anny et al., 2006), Brazil (Arruda et al., 2004) and elsewhere including South-East Asia, Sahelian Africa and Central America. The press cake of J. curcas resulting from processing of the seed for oil is unsuitable as animal feed due to its toxicity, but can be used as manure or as a fuel.

Preparations of all parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine as a laxative, emetic, cough treatment, and for healing wounds (Crothers, 1998; Heller, 1996), as a purgative and styptic, for toothache and strengthens gums, and to treat diarrhoea. Twigs are cooked and eaten when young, and used for cleaning teeth when mature. The oil is applied externally to treat skin disease, and for rheumatism and sciatica. The latex has antimicrobial properties (Thomas, 1989). In laboratory experiments, ground J. curcas capsules showed molluscidal activity against the host of liver fluke (Lymnaea auricularia rubiginosa) (Agaceta et al., 1981). One of the most studied antimicrobial chemicals is curcin. J. curcas also yields a dye which is used to give tan and brown shades and can also be used for making ink. The bark is rich in tannin, up to 37%. For further information on the uses of J. curcas see: Persinos et al., 1964; Wang and Huffman, 1981; Banerji et al., 1985; Ben Salem and Palmberg, 1985; Shelke et al., 1985; Mathur, 1986; Srivastava, 1986; Budowski, 1987; Anon., 1988; Paroda and Mal, 1989; Sherchan et al., 1989; Thomas, 1989; Weiss, 1989; Cabral, 1991; Roorda, 1991; Jones and Miller, 1992; Sauerwein et al., 1993; Solsoloy, 1993; Oudhia and Tripathi, 2002.

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Host of pest
  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement

Fuels

  • Biofuels

Human food and beverage

  • Nuts
  • Spices and culinary herbs

Materials

  • Dye/tanning
  • Dyestuffs
  • Lipids
  • Poisonous to mammals
  • Wax

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The closest relatives of J. curcas from karyotypes were J. multifida and J. gossypifolia, which were also noted as very similar morphologically (Soontornchainaksaeng and Jenjittikul, 2003). J. curcas looks very similar to Jatropha gossypiifolia and relatively similar to Ricinus communis. These three species can be distinguished by the following differences:

  • Jatropha curcas has leaves that are shallowly divided into 3-5 rounded lobes and glabrous. The small flowers have five greenish-yellow petals and are borne in small branched clusters. Its fruiting capsules are usually dull yellow and glabrous.
  • Jatropha gossypiifolia has leaves that are deeply divided into 3-5 pointed lobes (i.e. they are palmately lobed) and covered in sticky hairs (i.e. glandular pubescent). The small flowers have five red petals and are borne in small branched clusters. Its fruiting capsules are usually bright glossy green and sometimes sparsely pubescent.
  • Ricinus communis has leaves that are usually divided into 7-9 pointed lobes and glabrous. Separate male and female flowers (both lacking petals) are borne together in large elongated clusters (8-15 cm long), with the male flowers below the female flowers. Its immature fruiting capsules are densely covered in soft blunt spines, but are glabrous.

 

Prevention and Control

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Control

Cultural and sanitary measures

In extensive areas, infestations should be fenced off to prevent grazing and to limit the movement of contaminated vehicles and stock. The introduction of a vigorous pasture in suitable areas will assist in controlling the rate of spread of Jatropha (Pitt, 1999).

Physical/mechanical control

Seedlings and juvenile Jatropha are easily removed by hand, but cut portions and hand-pulled plants should be kept out of contact with moist soil or regrowth may occur. In Chhattisgarh, India, hand weeding is common practice for the control of J. curcas (Oudhia and Tripathi, 2002). Single plants of J. curcas should be dug out and burnt, taking care to remove as much of the tuberous roots as possible (Crothers, 1998).

Biological control

None known.

Chemical control

Recommendations on control of the related J. gossypiifolia suggest that individual or scattered mature plants can be treated with a cut stump application of diesel fuel or a registered herbicide, whereas larger infestations should be treated with suitable foliar or soil-applied herbicides (Pitt, 1999). Registered, selective herbicides for on-ground application of J. gossypiifolia in Australia are metsulfuron-methyl and fluroxypyr. 

Control by utilization

Preventing further invasion by collection all of the seeds may appear feasible as the seeds have an immediate market value as a source of oil.

References

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